By Mark Guarino
Lollapalooza arrives in downtown Chicago July 23-24, but the road leading there has been rocky. The music festival, which symbolized alternative music in the early ‘90s, is being revamped as a destination weekend by Capital Sports & Entertainment and Charles Attal Presents — the two companies that produce the Austin City Limits Festival. Organizer Charlie Jones said he considers Lollapalooza “one of America’s most cherished brands” and expects about 50,000 people a day to show up in Chicago’s Grant Park.
Hurdles remain. Chicago Park District officials have yet to officially green light the festival, saying the organizers are still plowing through the permit process. At press time, Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, spokesperson for the parks district, said a resolution is “probably a couple of weeks away” but added “things are going well, so we’re very hopeful.”
In the past, the city has been hesitant to host large scale rock events on the landmark lakeshore lawn. Although concerts by Radiohead and Shania Twain were considered successes, in the past the city denied permits to a reunion of the Grateful Dead in 2002 and a concert by hometown heroes the Smashing Pumpkins in 1998.
There is also a question of drawing power. Although the Lollapalooza website promises 60 bands, only 42 have been announced. The Pixies, Widespread Panic Weezer are considered headliners, but the majority, including Blonde Redhead, the Walkmen and the Black Keys are indie rock bands that comfortably fill clubs, not massive outdoor stages.
Despite its shaky prospects, Lollapalooza organizers started selling tickets in early April. Two-day passes are priced at $100 each before added surcharges.
Lollapalooza’s history is not a particularly smooth one. Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell launched the festival in 1991 and it ran until 1997. It was resurrected last year but quickly cancelled due to poor advance ticket sales.
Farrell, a “major partner” in the festival’s comeback, arrived at the Chicago press conference to pledge his support. “I thought I was dead in the water,” he said regarding last year’s debacle. He said won’t perform, but will instead simply be “helping out.” “I think it’s better to get out of the way,” he said. “You’re letting new art thrive.”